July 21, 2007

Of Coffee and Clove Cigarettes

There was a coffee house in my hometown that served very little in the way of good coffee, but was a venue for local bands and a teenage hangout. It was in an old building - dark and dusty, with 'found object' art on the walls mismatched cafe sets and a very liberal policy. I know they served alcohol later, when I was older, but in my teenage memories its the smell of old wood, coffee and clove cigarettes. Teenagers trying to be grown up, and by virtue of that very act being quintessentially teenagers.

But it was the live music that clinched the deal. We could sit in the dark on those creaky chairs, sipping our coffee or chai and watching the local bands performing under the bright lights of the "stage", a series of box platforms shoved in a corner. The music was always too loud to allow you to hear one another, but we pretended we were building relationships anyway. One night a week was open mic night, but it was the weekends, when the bands played, that we loved.

One summer night my friends and I were hanging out at the coffee house and we heard a band that even I could tell was something special. Tabitha's Secret. They played songs that had interesting lyrics, and they weren't playing cover songs. And they were good. I bought their tape that night and played it often. And then I heard one of the songs on the radio. Slightly different, but only slightly. Matchbox 20? Who is that? That's 3 a.m., and Tabitha's Secret recorded that song at least two years ago. I have the tape.

It turns out Matchbox 20 is the band most of Tabitha's Secret joined. (A high school friend told me there was only a one person difference, but I've never actually checked that fact.) The little local band that played the coffee house in my hometown is on the top 40. It felt like a brush with fame, and I still get a little thrill when I think of it.

I'm dorky like that.

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